Kourakuen gardens

In the middle of Okayama city is one of the nicest gardens of any type you're likely to encounter anywhere. Created at the orders of the Ikeda clan (the same folks who founded the Shizutani school), the gardens occupy most of the island in the middle of the Asahigawa river in central Okayama.

For awhile, you can just wander around and enjoy the footpaths, steps, pavillions, gates, islands, and lakes of the gardens, which belonged to the Ikeda clan as their private property until 1871.

This is a ripe rice field, by the way.

But after awhile you'll start noticing the most amazing part of the gardens. Every place you stand, and every direction you look from there, you see a well-composed scene.
When they created the gardens, they thought carefully about what you would see from where -- and about how tall all the vegetation would grow. The result is that the garden arranges itself artfully around you.
There are lots of places to stand in and look out of. And there's lots and lots of bodies of water.
One of the nicest plans is the way Okayama-jo, shown at left, is integrated into the various vantage points from the gardens. Even the local castle was integrated into the garden experience. --sigh-- I wish we had this kind of outdoor architecture here.

The idea that all of this was the Sunday picnic grounds of a single family -- until well into the modern era -- is also pretty mind-boggling.

Maybe a little revolution every now and then isn't such a bad thing.

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  © 1998 Leo Hourvitz